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Web Accessibility Procedures


Those without the ability to see a web page can hear it using software called screen readers that speak the content. However, this can only happen effectively if web pages adhere to a set of coding standards. By law, the university’s web pages are required to comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which dictates that all online content must be equally accessible to the disabled. By designing web pages that follow this Web Accessibility Policy, you will not only be in compliance, you will also produce online information that is accessible to all users.

This Web Accessibility Policy is based on recommendations from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. All official web sites of the university must comply with this policy.

This policy cannot cover all issues related to accessibility – to do so would necessitate writing many volumes. The intent here is to focus on key issues and ensure that university web sites conform to Priority 1 checkpoints of the W3C. By meeting all of the minimum standards listed below, your site will likely comply with Section 508 guidelines.

Minimum Standards

Provide text equivalents for all visual content, including images, graphics, animated graphics, image maps, video clips and audio clips or sounds, and any other non-text elements, including applets, programmatic objects and scripts. This includes:

-Descriptive “alt” or “longdesc” attributes in all HTML image tags and image maps.
-Image maps must include “alt” attributes for all hyperlinks.
-Synchronized captioning for multimedia and video presentations.
-Separate text-only versions when simpler, accessible methods will not work.
-Use HTML tags to organize a hierarchy of page content. For headers use header tags “H1, H2” etc., rather than font size changes, to note sections and subsections of your page.
-Never rely on color as the sole source of information. For example: “Click the red button.”
-Use descriptive, concise hyperlink text. Link text should be meaningful enough to make sense when read out of context. NEVER use “Click Here” as a link.
-Avoid client-side page redirects.
-Provide sufficient contrast between background and text colors, so that the text on the page is legible for users with low vision.

When presenting tabular data, proper HTML markup and practices must be used to associate data cells and header cells. This includes:

-Row and column headers must be identified using the table header tag.
-The table summary attribute should be used to describe the table contents.
-For data tables with two or more logical levels of row or column headers, use HTML markup to describe more complex relationships (i.e. THEAD, TFOOT, and TBODY to group rows, COL and COLGROUP to group columns).
-When pages rely on JavaScript (or other scripting languages) to display content, the information provided by the script must be associated with functional text.
-Never use server-side image maps. They are easily replaced with client-side image maps that can be read by screen readers when appropriate ALT tags are included.
-Clearly identify places where text or text equivalents change to a different language to facilitate pronunciation or interpretation of foreign text. Speech synthesizers and Braille devices can automatically switch to the new language if appropriate HTML markup is used.

Forms must allow people using screen readers to access the information, field elements and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues. This includes:

-Identifying labels for all form elements using the label tag.
-Grouping related form elements using the fieldset tag.
-Organizing form elements in a logical layout. (Use of the Tab key should allow a clear flow from field to field).

Core Recommendations

Use cascading style sheets (CSS) to control visual layout and presentation, rather than using tables. Tables should only be used to present tabular data.
Decorative images should be moved into CSS whenever possible.

When a web page requires that an applet, plug-in or other application be present on the client system to interpret page content, the page should provide a link to a plug-in or applet that will function with assistive technology.

When writing ALT attributes, use simple words to describe the function of visual elements rather than describing their appearance.
Use CSS-styled lists for navigation, rather than images.

Provide a way that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.
Provide sufficient space between links to assist users who have difficulty with fine motor movements.

Avoid using hyper-linked images as the sole source for navigation.
Ensure that moving, blinking, scrolling or automatically-updating objects are presented in an accessible format.

Avoid unnecessary use of frames. If you must use frames, title each frame to facilitate frame identification and navigation.

Consistent page layout, recognizable graphics and easy-to- understand language benefit all users. Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a site’s content and audience.

Provide a hyperlink to a text html page or provide an audio description of the important information of any video content.


-WebAIM: Web Accessibility in Mind – Clear, concise how-to information on just about every accessibility topic
-Web Accessibility Initiative by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) – Industry standards for accessibility – The official government site and more than you ever wanted to know.
-WebXACT – A Free Accessibility Checker from Watchfire

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